Category Archives: Cornucopia of thoughts

Musings of a man who skipped class this morning to muse

Posted by Dan

I’m gonna do this Steve style, which means one thing: bullet points.

  • Is there anything more overrated in baseball than hitting for the cycle? I mean, it’s a nice, interesting accomplishment, but come on. My main problem with it, is that if Fielder goes 4-4 tomorrow with 2 HR, a double and a single, it will get merely a passing mention between the Red Sox and Yankees highlights. Make one of those HR a triple, and its breaking news/history. It’s also a less productive stat line.  Billy Ripken, on the MLB Network today was talking about it and said two things that seemed ridonkulous. First, he claimed “late in the game, it’s like a no-hitter. It’s all you’re thinking about.” Then, speaking of Orlando Hudson (who completed his cycle with a 6th inning triple) said, “As soon as he hit it he knew he was going for a triple. If he gets thrown out, oh well, he gets thrown out.” That seems absurd. Granted it was a huge Dodger lead at the time, but I’d like to think no MLB player would think like that. 
  • Despite the fact that seven games is a meaningless sample size, I’ll quickly highlight a few good things: First, Corey Hart has a 5BB:8K ratio through his first 26 ABs. Last year he only walked 27 times in 612 ABs, which is Michael Bourn-esque. The Brewers offense cannot afford to have someone compile 600+ ABs with a .300 OBP in front of Braun and Fielder this season. Secondly, Weeks had a good first week. Going .276/.364/.448 against tough righties Lincecum, Cain, Harden, Zambrano, Dempster and Volquez. The 2-5 start is discouraging but that is a tough week of matchups for a nearly exclusively right handed lineup.
  • Unfortunately, Brewers pitching racked up a brutal 35 BBs to only 45 strikeouts over the first week.  That ties them with Toronto for the most walks in MLB, which is simply terrible.  The 45 strikeouts are also the 10th worst in all of baseball. Jeff Suppan is obviously terrible, and his contract is going to be a huge hindrance this year and next year. I’ve heard people suggest moving him to the pen and replacing him with Villanueva (if Suppan continues to struggle, and Hoffman returns). I hate this idea. Villanueva’s skillset allows him to come in for high leverage situations in late innings and also go multiple innings. His arm is too important to the bullpen to either return to the rotation or remain tied to the closer role long term which is why we need Hoffman to get healthy.  He reportedly threw Monday and felt well and is “on track” for an end of the month return.
  • Lastly, shock and horror on Sportscenter this morning as Chien Ming Wang got shelled again last night for the Yankees.  The general public thinks this guy is good (19 wins in 2006 and 2007 OMG OMG!) but in reality he has NEVER struck out more than 4.9 per nine innings in a full season. He gets alot of ground balls, but he’s certainly not nearly as good as his back to back 19 win seasons make Sportscenter think he is.

More good news

Posted by Steve

Just a few more things to add to the most recent cornucopia of thoughts.

I somehow managed to omit probably the best news of the past week:  Yovani Gallardo will not be pitching in the World Baseball Classic.  With how much the Brewers have riding on Gallardo this season, this was a risk they really couldn’t afford to take.  The decision was left up to Gallardo, but I’m sure the Brewers made it known they would prefer him not to play.  Yo is probably the most important (or at least most irreplaceable) player on the team.

That’s why I don’t fully understand Ken Macha’s hesitation to “put pressure” on Gallardo.  Macha has said he probably won’t start Gallardo on opening day to keep said pressure of him.  Thing is, Gallardo hasn’t shown any tendency to be adversely affected by pressure at any point in his short career.  In fact, we’ve heard him praised for his poise.  If the Brewers were willing to start him in Game 1 of their first playoff series since 1982 after missing most of the season, why can’t he handle being the opening day starter?

Not that I’m overly concerned with him not starting on opening day–it really doesn’t matter much as long as he’s pitching every fifth day.  I just find it curious that Macha seems worried he can’t handle it.

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Last year’s first rounder, Brett Lawrie, is switching positions from catcher to second base.  I can’t blame him for this move.  Lawrie is projected to be a quick riser (Baseball America already has him in their top 100 prospects, and he hasn’t even played a minor league game yet!), and moving to second should help him move quickly.  His offensive game is advanced, but learning to catch probably would have slowed his progression somewhat.  Not to mention the Brewers have two promising catchers ahead of him in the system in Angel Salome and Jonathan Lucroy.

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Ned Yost seems so far away.  Several times I’ve discussed things I liked about Yost, mainly the fact that he rarely sac bunted and he rarely issued intentional walks.  Things I didn’t like about Yost were, as shown by the Sha-wuuhhh? tag, even more documented here.  The absolute worst was his bullpen management, but I was also very critical about his tendency to leave starting pitchers in for high pitch counts with regularity.

Everything I’ve heard so far from Macha has indicated that he will be better at the things Yost did poorly without straying much from the things Yost did that I liked.  A perfect example is this entry from TH’s blog.  No more pitcher abuse!

Again, we won’t know anything for sure until we see his strategy in actual games, but something tells me he will infuriate me much less frequently than Ol’ Ned.

Spring training mixed bag

Posted by Steve

There has been a good amount to talk about lately with the Brewers.  Nothing too huge, but a bunch of tidbits.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to post lately.  It’s getting down to the wire–I’m making the big move to Pennsylvania this week, and I still have a lot to do.

An example of how this has been affecting my baseball-following patterns: I was asked this weekend what I thought of the new Baseball Prospectus handbook.  My response?  “Wow, I didn’t even know it was out yet!”

Every year I purchase the BP and Baseball America Prospect handbooks in the packaged deal from Amazon, and they arrive as soon as they’re released.  Not that I’m excusing this misstep, but with everything going on I apparently missed the release date.  Not to worry; I picked it up today and I’m sure I’ll be doing the normal piece on it soon.

On to the cornucopida.

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Corey Hart agreed to terms just before an arbitration hearing, meaning no Brewer has gone to arbitration since Doug Melvin has been GM.  I’m not really sure how impressive that actually is–obviously it’s a good thing not to potentially alienate your players–but I’ve heard people discuss this as though it’s a big feather in Melvin’s cap.  I don’t think it’s that huge of a deal, but oh well.  All I know is this was about the fourth or fifth time we’ve seen this paragraph around this time of year:  “No Brewer has ever gone to an arbitration hearing under Doug Melvin, but that could end this week.  The team has not made any progress with INSERT PLAYER NAME to this point, and both sides are preparing to go to a arbitration.”

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The signing of Eric Gagne to a minor league contract was a very pleasant surprise.  I have liked the idea bringing Gagne back for a lesser deal before but never thought they’d get him for that.  The Brewers have Spring Training to evaluate and decide whether Gagne will be added to the roster.  If they don’t, he’ll be cut with minimal cost to the team.  If he’s kept, he’ll make a base salary of $1.5 million with the potential to earn another $3 million in incentives.  Gagne was very solid in the second half, and this is a very low-risk (no risk if they don’t keep him) signing.

I give Gagne a lot of credit.  He likely could have taken this type of deal with several teams, but he came back to the place where he was relentlessly booed.  He basically apologized to Melvin for not performing up to his contract last season, and now he’s giving the Brewers a very team-friendly contract to see if he can make up for it.  I’d like to see him make the team, and I think he will.  I’d venture to guess they will only take one of Mitch Stetter and R.J. Swindle (both lefties), and I’d rather see Gagne on the team than Jorge Julio.  Eduardo Morlan, the 22-year-0ld reliever taken by the Brewers in the Rule V draft, will be another main competitor to Gagne.

My favorite detail around the signing of Gagne is the fact that he amazingly got laser eye surgery in the off-season and will no longer need his sweet-looking glasses.  Why is that a favorite detail you ask?  Because this is a baseball blog, and it is the third time in a year I can legitimately use the tag, “The wonders of laser eye surgery.”

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Ken Macha said last week that he will likely give Jason Kendall at least one day off per week.  While this should be common sense, it is great news after Yost’s use of Kendall last year.  It sounds like we’ll be able to tell that Mike Rivera is a member of the team this year.  That’s a good thing–not so much because Rivera is good as the fact that Kendall isn’t good or young enough to be playing so much.

Macha said he’s considering pairing one pitcher with Rivera as a way to get him into the lineup on a regular basis.  Manny Parra seems to be a logical candidate.  He and Rivera played together quite a bit in the minors, and Rivera caught Parra’s perfect game in AAA in 2007.

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Cory Provus was introduced last week as Jim Powell’s replacement.  He comes to the Brewers from WGN Radio.  Yep, he worked for the Cubs.  And yep, he’s a lifelong Cubs fan.  A lot of people are upset about the Brewers hiring someone who rooted for the Cubs growing up.  I admit I do find it odd and a bit annoying, but if the guy calls a good game and gets excited when the Brewers do well, I won’t really care.  At the very least I’m going to give him a fair chance before I pass judgment.  Jim Powell was from Atlanta, yet he was able to get plenty excited when the Brewers did well.  Also, he was able to be awesome.  If Provus is half as good as JP I’ll be happy with the hiring.

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Finally, on to a seemingly terrible idea.

Moneyball the book?  Outstanding.  A classic.

Moneyball the movie? Huh?!

Yes, this is real.  It’s apparently really going to happen.  Is there any way this could be half as good as the book?  And is there any way it isn’t horribly “Hollywooded” up to the point that it completely ruins the point of Moneyball?  I mean, Billy Beane being played by Brad Freaking Pitt?

I just don’t see a market for the movie.  People who aren’t into baseball won’t want to see the movie, and people who liked the book will probably be put off by the Hollywoodiness.  Am I wrong in thinking this?

This keeps getting weirder

Posted by Steve

The further we get into this off-season, the more flawed the draft pick compensation system appears to be. Ken Rosenthal’s latest piece hints that remaining Type A free agents may actually be better served to hold out until the June Draft before signing with a team. The reason for this is after the draft, teams signing any of those players would no longer need to forfeit a draft pick. As a result, there would surely be more interest from more teams. Crazy to think about, isn’t it?

Oddly enough, this could actually be beneficial for Sheets. He has a history of dominating in the first half of the season and wearing down by the end of the year. Starting in June would not only reassure teams by allowing him more time to rest his arm, but it would keep him fresh up until the end of the season. Of course, it would suck for the Brewers because they wouldn’t get any draft pick for Sheets.

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Speaking of Sheets, everything I’m reading has the Rangers as the only serious suitor for him—even though they’ve shown no interest in offering a long-term deal to this point. I can’t help but think Texas would be a terrible fit for Sheets. He’s a fly-ball pitcher, and The Ballpark at Arlington was the number one hitter’s park in the league last season. Not to mention the Rangers aren’t likely to be a good team this year.

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Jim Powell continues to prove how awesome he is. Check out this classy farewell letter he wrote to brewerfan.net.

A magic cornucopia

Posted by Steve

FYI, this cornucopia is magic because it can survive an arctic chill.  Let’s get to it…

The day the Brewers signed Trevor Hoffman, one of the local news stations played a clip of an interview with Bill Schroeder.  Schroeder said that Hoffman has “the best changeup in baseball, no ifs ands or buts about it.”  Holy overstatement Batman!  I fully acknowledge that Hoffman has become known for his great changeup–it’s certainly one of the best in the game.  Thing is, the best pitcher in the world–Johan Santana–also has an incredible changeup.  And we just saw Cole Hamels shred his way through the playoffs with a ridonkulous changeup of his own.  Hoffman’s is great as well, but to say his is undoubtedly the best is just homerism.

Do you think Bill would have said that if the Brewers hadn’t just signed him?  Just think of how many times we’ll hear some variation of “the best changeup in baseball” this season (Dan guessed 75).  I’m sure that won’t get old.

I have to admit though, this interview is getting me geared up for 2009.  I can’t wait for Bill’s first scouting report of the season.

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The 538th Piece of Evidence that I Spend Too Much Time on Baseball:  While on brewerfan the other day, I happened to notice my post count.  I’ll be reaching 5,000 posts in the next day or so.  I remember stumbling upon brewerfan.net early in college and being amazed by its awesomeness.  I lurked there for months before I finally got the guts to create an account, and now I have 5,000 posts.  Yikes. Best site out there, and I’m totally serious (I think this sentence was the 539th piece of evidence).

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Speaking of brewerfan, there’s a pretty spirited discussion on a trade rumor reported a few days ago by Tom Haudricourt: Mike Cameron for Nick Swisher.  If this sounds familiar to you, it might be because I suggested this about a month ago ;).

It’s hard to tell from that article how much interest Melvin may have in Swisher.  Brewerfan seems to be split pretty evenly, but I’m definitely in favor of it.  Many are opposed to the idea of trading Cameron for a player who had a .219 batting average last season–sure when you put it that way, anyone would be opposed to that.  But when you look at the rest of his career, 2008 screams ‘fluke year.’  Here’s one good article that explains why Swisher will most likely rebound next season.  How bizarre that he had by far the lowest BABIP in a year that he hit more line drives than ever?  Oh, the ever-overlooked factor of luck in baseball.

In a vacuum, Cameron is likely to be the more valuable player in 2009.  Swisher may be a little better offensively, but Cameron’s great CF defense tips the scale in his favor.  Outside the vacuum, there are other factors at play that make Swisher a better option for the Brewers.

  • Swisher will make $5 million this season.  Cameron will make $10 million.  Five mil is a good chunk of change that could be used to help the team elsewhere.
  • Swisher takes more pitches than just about anybody.  Despite his .219 batting average, his on-base percentage was .332–higher than the Brewers’ team OBP of .325 in 2008 (ouch).  His OBP was .381 in 2007 and .372 in 2006.  I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him approach this numbers in 2009 considering his bad luck in 2008.
  • Swisher is a switch hitter, and the Brewers are quite right-handed heavy.
  • Cameron would likely be better in 2009, but he’s a free agent after that.  Swisher is under contract through 2011 with a team option for 2012.  Some have used this as a reason not to acquire Swisher–he’ll make 8.5 mil in ’09 and ’10–but if his luck evens out his numbers will revert back to his career norms and he’ll be well worth the money.  Plus, if you go with Cameron in 2009, you’d need to be spending at least most of that 8.5 mil to replace him in 2010 in all likelihood.
  • Swisher gives the Brewers flexibility if they decide to trade Prince Fielder at some point.
  • I don’t think the defensive hit the Brewers would take would be quite as bad as some think.  In all likelihood, Corey Hart would move to center and Swisher would start in right.  Swisher is a better right fielder than Hart, so much of the defense lost by going from Cameron to Hart in center would be made up by going from Hart to Swisher in right.  Obviously, Swisher is a better first baseman than Fielder as well if the Brewers ever ended up playing him there.

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Another idea I’ve been supporting has been suggested by Ken Rosenthal: The Sign Adam Dunn-Trade Prince Fielder Idea.  I believe I’ve discussed the benefits in detail a few times, but I just thought it was interesting that it was suggested at a national level.

So long Waukee

Posted by Steve

Not much new going on, but I figured I’d post since it’s been over a week since the last one (and as I post this I notice that there is some grumbling about the lack of posts, so good timing). I’ll be starting up some analyses of the 2008 season, mainly on individual performances, pretty soon. I’m also kicking the tires on a Bill’s Scouting Report of the Year post, which could possibly feature a reader poll.  My only concern is the potential embarrassment of having like seven total votes in the poll, so you might have to vote like ten times (joking, at least somewhat). For now, this will be a mixed bag of sorts—a cornucopia, if you will.

  • Literally as I was typing this I heard that Sal Torres has retired. Surprising move, but I guess not that shocking considering the Brewers had to talk him out of retiring last season. Torres had a nice season, and he was a fun pitcher to watch. He wasn’t great, but he was good, which is certainly valuable. This really leaves the Brewers in a bind. I expect them to pursue Trevor Hoffman, whose option was just declined by San Diego. At least we’ll always have the “Sup Waukee!” moment.
  • It’s nice to see a post-season award actually go to a deserving recipient for a change (Nate McLouth=Gold Glove?!?!?/1/1/). Tim Lincecum won the NL Cy Young today. Either Lincecum or Johan Santana deserved it, but I was afraid Brandon Webb’s win total would steal the award for him.
  • The Brewers have made plenty of hires over the last week. Dale Sveum as hitting coach, Bill Castro as pitching coach, Willie Randolph as bench coach and probably most importantly, Bruce Seid as scouting director. Not going to pretend to have much insight on coaching hires, so here’s my limited and irrelevant reaction to each one: Sveum as hitting coach seems strange, but whatever. Cool to see Castro get a pitching coach job after 17 freaking years as bullpen coach. Kind of cool that Randolph accepted the bench coach position, though I am certainly glad Macha will be calling the shots instead of him. Kind of crazy that three members of the staff were managers as one point.  I don’t know anything about Seid either, except for the fact that I like the idea of filling that position from within the organization with someone who worked under Jack Z. Hopefully the Brewers continue to stay ahead of teams in Canada and the east coast.
  • The hot stove season is upon us, and it is glorious. The first couple big trades went down yesterday, and the Brewers should start getting into the mix very soon now that all their hirings are complete. Doug Melvin has a ton of work cut out for him, as the Brewers will undoubtedly look a lot different next season.
  • If the Cubs acquire Jake Farking Peavy for a few B and C level prospects I will probably blow up this blog.

The beauty of a sizeable lead

Posted by Steve

Reading through the game thread at Brewerfan yesterday, you’d have thought the Brewers blew their entire wildcard lead in one game. Sure, the game was bad, but it was one game. Sure, the series was bad… But you know what? They lost just one game off their wildcard lead. They still have a 4 ½ game lead with 23 games remaining, and PECOTA has their playoff odds at 92.5%. A funny thing happened yesterday: on the same day they got worked over by the Mets, the Brewers’ chances to reach the playoffs increased. Both the Cardinals and Phillies lost, and their lead stayed at the same 4 ½ that it was entering play.

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It’s comforting to know that no matter what the Brewers do, as long as the second-place wildcard team loses, the Crew’s playoff chances go up. Same for the Crew winning. The only thing that can really hurt them at this point is losing on the same day the second-place team wins.

QUESTION! QUESTION!

I wrote the previous paragraph before checking the odds from yesterday morning, and the Brewers’ odds actually dropped about eight-tenths of a point after yesterday’s games. That apparently means I’m wrong in saying that the Brewers’ odds should go up any time the second-place team loses? Except I don’t see how that’s possible… Their magic number dropped with the Phillies losing, so why would their playoff odds go down? If someone more mathematically inclined than myself commented on this, I’d appreciate it.

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There were also a handful of comments yesterday along the lines of, “Even if the Brewers don’t blow it, they’ll just get crushed by the Mets in the first round anyway.” To that I say, “Ahem.” Sure, the Brewers are 2-4 against the Mets this year. So what? First of all, six flippin’ games shouldn’t be an indicator of anything. Secondly, CC Sabathia pitched in exactly zero of those six games. Something tells me the Mets would have a tougher time in a series of Sabathia-Sheets-Anyone-Sabathia-Sheets than they did in the regular season games, especially when many of them will be facing CC for the first time.

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Despite that fairly comfy 4 ½ game lead, I don’t want to make it sound like I’m saying the Brewers are a lock for the playoffs. Don’t get me wrong; they’re a big-time favorite, and it would take a colossal choke-job that would leave me bedridden for weeks in order for them to miss the playoffs, but it’s not a lock. If they lose, say, the first two games of the San Diego series, I’ll officially be a nervous wreck. Then again, I’m not too worried about that because the Padres suck and CC throws tomorrow.

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Boy, Albert Pujols sure knew what he was talking about when he said Carlos Villanueva “woke a sleeping giant.” Carlos really blew it there. In fact, since Carlos woke the sleeping giant, said giant has one win and five losses. Think of the biggest, happiest, funniest and most obnoxious emoticon you can imagine, and picture it placed in this location. ___

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Meanwhile, while you were sleeping, the Houston Astros have gone on a meaningless-yet-impressive tear. They swept the Cubs in Wrigley and are one game behind the Cardinals! Disgustingly, the Stros would have a 2 ½ game lead in the NL West, but in the Central they don’t have a chance. It should be enough to keep Cecil Cooper’s job, though. Considering some of his crazy moves against the Brewers this year, that’s not a bad thing.

Thought Cornucopia: Let the Good Times Roll!

Posted by Steve

First, some thoughts on yesterday’s game.

  • It was actually close for most of the game, and the Brewers were lucky to have a 3-0 in the middle of the game. Each team squandered several scoring chances over the first five innings. At one point Bill said, “The Brewers could easily be leading 8-0,” to which I thought, “And they could easily be trailing 4-3.”
  • It’s funny to me to that some praising Sheets for yesterday’s outing are the ones who had been criticizing him. He really didn’t pitch much differently that he has over the past few weeks… He was a little luckier this time, and he didn’t make his mistakes in crucial situations last night, unlike the Houston start. Oh, and he had a ton of run support for a change.
  • I have felt all season the Brewers are better than the Cardinals, but I couldn’t believe what I was watching yesterday. The Cardinals making errors—and mental errors at that, is something I’m just not used to, yet they’ve regularly done it in games against the Brewers this season.
  • The Brewers own Rick Ankiel this season to the tune of a .619 OPS in 53 plate appearances. It seems the guy will swing at any fastball above his letters. The Brewers only give him that pitch or a curve in the dirt and he’ll get himself out.
  • Finally, we come to Ryan Braun’s pwnage of the Cardinals pitching. I couldn’t say it better than Bernie Miklasz of STLToday.com in his blog entry titled, “Changing of the Guard: Brewers Own Cardinals (I enjoyed his title as well).

One more thing: I simply do not understand what the Cardinals are trying to do in their approach to Milwaukee bopper Ryan Braun. This kid simply murders them, and the numbers almost read like fiction.

In 57 ABs vs. the Cardinals this season Braun has 28 hits for a .491 BA. He’s slammed 7 homers and has 13 RBIs. His OBP is .516, and his SLG is .965 …

In his two-season career, Braun has 99 ABs against the Cardinals and he’s raked ‘em for 43 hits … that’s a .434 BA … and he has 10 homers and a SLG of .838.

And yet the Cardinals keep pitching Braun the same. In yesterday’s blog I relied on the STATS scouting reports to offer a glimpse at Braun’s weak spots as a hitter, and basically you pound him low with fastballs and sliders and mix in the change. Or you can ride the fastball up and get him to chase it. What you don’t do is throw this guy any heat from the top of the knees to the belt; he’ll destroy you. And you don’t try to blast him inside; Braun loves to turn on those pitches in. So what do the Cardinals keep doing? Of course: throw the mid-thigh gas, and try to smoke him inside. That was their strategy Tuesday, and Braun launched a thigh-high fastball into the Milwaukee bullpen for a two-run jack. And he added two singles. That’s right: give it to Braun exactly where he likes it. And let the dude keep mauling them. It’s almost comical the way Braun slaps them around. And they simply refuse to alter their approach. It’s as incomprehensible as anything I’ve witnessed of this team in recent years. Yep, the Cardinals will keep showing Braun that they’re right; you just watch.

  • Let’s talk about Mike Cameron. His gigantic August has vaulted him to the top of the pack among center fielders. He is now third in all of MLB behind megastars Grady Sizemore and Josh Hamilton in OPS among center fielders. Cameron’s .871 OPS is identical to Prince Fielder’s. I could argue Cameron has been the best center fielder in the national league this season, particularly factoring in defense. This signing has proven to be a fantastic one, even before figuring in that he was a second or third option signed late in the year. I fully expect the Brewers to pick up his $10 million option for next season.
  • The argument could be made that last night’s game was the most important of the year, at least in terms of playoff implications. It was a 12 or 13 percentage-point swing, with the winner’s chances jumping by about six percent and the loser dropping by a similar amount. That is a gigantic swing for one game. The Crew jumped from 85% to 90.6%, while the Cards fell to just 6.4%. Of course, tonight’s game will have a similar swing. Simply put, though, the Brewers find themselves in great position.
  • Last night on a pre-game radio show, the following question was posed on a “round table” segment: If the Brewers sweep these two games from the Cardinals, will they lock up the wildcard? The first panelists seemed appalled by the question, basically saying there’s still an entire month to go and it’s way too early to say something like that. The second panelist was sabermetric-minded Rob Neyer, and his simple answer was: “Absolutely.” This definitely brought a smile to my face, because although I’m afraid to say it, I agree with him. A 5 ½ game lead with a month to go is substantial in any form, but when you consider the Brewers are considered/projected to be a better team than both the Mets and Cardinals, it’s huge. Add on the Brewers’ favorable schedule compared to the Cards, and… Well, like I said. They’re in a great situation, especially if they sweep tonight.

Off day musings

Posted by Steve

Haven’t posted in the last few days. I don’t really have anything in particular I want to talk about, but I figured I’d get something up. Couple good games to end the Reds series leaves the Crew with yet another winning road trip. Hot diggity dog. Few quick things.

  • Jim Powell said on the radio today that the collective bargaining agreement prevents a team from playing on more than 20 days in a row. Wednesday was the Crew’s 20th straight day with a game, which means it would be illegal for the Brewers to play tomorrow. I don’t know why, but that struck my as cool/amusing.
  • The Craig Counsell consecutive start streak is at five and counting. No word yet as to which Yost family member Russell Branyan abducted or what Branyan’s demands are; I’m just assuming the authorities are keeping it under wraps for precautionary purposes.
  • Over lunch I saw on some ESPN2 show people discussing how the Prince Fielder-Manny Parra incident “could help the Brewers turn things around.” Yep, and if the Brewers fall apart and miss the playoffs, I expect to read how the incident “divided the clubhouse and became a fatal distraction.”
  • Suppan looked pretty good today, and it’s hopefully a good sign. Randomly, his career ERA in July is 5.34 (easily his worst month), while August is 4.67. He’s had long career, so those are pretty significant samples. I won’t even try to speculate why he’s been that bad in August, but if the numbers hold true his worst games should be behind him. Even more encouraging his is September/October ERA of 4.05.
  • Dave Bush pitched well on the road and won. I know; I imagine I’m just as shocked as you. I was sure the starting rotation home-road platoon based on a handful of innings from this season was going to work out perfectly, but I guess I was horribly wrong.
  • Sweet game for Rickie today. May have been his best all-around game of the season. Keep him in there for a week, Ned, and see what happens. My guess: He’s finally realizing it’s big-boy time.
  • A very winnable week is ahead for the Crew. Four at home against the pathetic Nationals, and then three on the road against the almost-as-bad Padres. Winning less than four games would cause Brewer fan mutiny. 5-2 is a lofty but attainable goal, and that’s what I’ll be hoping for.
  • Finally, I’m laying it on the line. I’ve been meaning to revamp (or at least update) the site for, like, three months now and keep forgetting/putting it off. The “About Me” page is an abomination and hasn’t been up to date since about two months after this blog’s inception. The roster down the right side needs some work too. You’d think I’d be excited enough by the fact that Tony Gwynn Jr. is no longer on the team to change it, but I guess not. Also, apparently the Brewers added some big name starting pitcher or something? I’ll look into it and edit accordingly. Anyway, I figure by posting that here for **the world to see, it will somehow force me to actually follow through with this.

** In this particular context, “World”=”People who have visited this blog more than twice.”

Free Bill Branyan, and other thoughts

Posted by Steve

Time for a ‘Beat the Cubs’ Cornucopia of Thoughts. Despite the great stretch since the break, many things have bothered me, so this may be a bit negative.

  • Why has Ned let three game-winning hits trick him into thinking Bill Hall is better hitting righties than Russell Branyan? Hall had a nice start to July, and Branyan hasn’t done much at all lately (probably hard when you’re never playing), but Hall has quickly reverted back to being bad against righties… Shocking! I’ve never liked the idea of playing the hot hand, because that generally means a few things: if a player is only playing because he has a ‘hot hand,’ that probably means that he isn’t good enough to be a full-time starter anyway. The hot hand phenomenon leads to the player playing more than he should, and likely wears out his hot streak because he’s playing more in unfavorable match-ups. Ned has managed to doubly mess this up, because he went from a platoon that was producing very well to one that isn’t producing at all: Branyan because he hasn’t received regular playing time for a few weeks, and Hall because he’s playing so much against righties. The numbers on Hall remain astonishingly clear: Hall’s OPS against lefties is 1.057; Hall’s OPS against righties is .560. Bring back the platoon!
  • As far as the other platoon of McClung on the road/Bush at home, I’m ready to scrap it already. What is the benefit of keeping two pitchers on a whacked out routine?
  • Everyone is talking about Ned keeping Suppan in too long yesterday, but that isn’t even the decision that bothered me the most this weekend. Down two runs with two outs in the ninth against Jose Valverde on Friday, Ned kept Jason Kendall in to hit rather than using a pinch hitter. Kendall has been great defensively, but he is not a good hitter. I don’t get Ned’s refusal to pinch hit for his light hitting catcher with the game on the line. He hasn’t pinch hit for Kendall one time this season.
  • It’s surprising that it took this long, but the polish has finally worn off Gabe Kapler. He’s 0 for his last 11 and 2 for his last 17. Gabe Gross is no world beater, but it still bugs me that the Brewers kept Kapler over Gross. Why ship out the superior hitter who is also left-handed on a righty-dominated team?
  • Eric Gagne is looking good, which probably has to do with him being rested, but I don’t like Ned pronouncing him ‘the eighth inning guy.’ The bullpen should be strictly about using the best pitcher in each situation. If three out of the first four batters of the eighth inning are left-handed, Brian Shouse should be used. Additionally, naming Gagne the eighth-inning pitcher could lead to the overuse that derailed him in the first half. Keeping Gagne fresh should be a top priority, especially since it’s beginning to appear that the Brewers won’t be trading for a reliever (which is a mistake, but I’ll leave that for another post if no deal occurs).
  • I doubt there’s been a more hyped series for the Brewers in my lifetime, but unless either team sweeps, there won’t be much ground gained. If the Cubs win three out of four they’ll have a three-game lead; if the Brewers take three of four they’ll have a one-game lead. Nothing too earth-shattering. I’m still most concerned with the Cardinals/Mets/Phillies/Marlins, because those are the teams that can beat the Brewers out for the wildcard.

On to Bill’s Scouting Report of the Week. It goes to Ben Sheets in his start against the Cardinals.

5-14

6-1

Velocity Early

I have to say, these are my favorite type of reports. Most are good, but the ones with points that are impossible to decode without an explanation from Bill are a whole different animal.

5-14. Bill’s Birthday? Ben Sheets’ birthday? A specific rule in the MLB handbook? Turns out it’s Ben’s W-L record in his career against the Cardinals. Gee, Bill… Who cares? Are you trying to say that Ben’s struggled against the Cardinals in his career based on those numbers? Because his career ERA against the Cards is 4.20, which isn’t nearly as bad as “5-14” would indicate.

6-1. Take a guess. Today’s date? The final score of the last game he pitched? Bill’s mustache hairs per square centimeter of upper lip? Nope. If you guessed ‘Ben Sheets’ road record’ you’re the lucky winner.

Velocity Early. It’s important for Ben to have his velocity early. Not a scouting report. Also, this applies to just about any pitcher.

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Finally, a little anti-Cubs mojo for the series.

Brant Brown